Ranji round three: Mumbai continue to march on; issues intensify for Delhi

Mumbai continued their winning streak, while defending champions Saurashtra finally managed a win by getting the better of Vidarbha. The weather, meanwhile, continued to play a big role. Here are the highlights from the third round of the Ranji Trophy 2023-24 season.

The Mumbai juggernaut rolls on

After two bonus-point wins over Bihar and Andhra, Mumbai beat Kerala by 232 runs in Thiruvananthapuram to catapult to the top of Group B standings. Set 327 for victory, Kerala folded for 94 in just 33 overs, with left-arm spinner Shams Mulani picking up 5 for 44 in the second innings. The result leaves Kerala languishing in the bottom half of the eight-team pool, having managed two draws and an outright defeat in three matches.
Returning to lead Kerala a day after he turned up for India in a T20I against Afghanistan in Bengaluru, Sanju Samson returned scores of 38 and 15 not out. Shivam Dube, Samson’s India team-mate in Bengaluru, fared much better for Mumbai, hitting 51 in Mumbai’s first-innings 251. Mumbai fast bowler Mohit Avasthi picked up career-best figures of 7 for 57 in the first innings, while Ajinkya Rahane, the captain, had his first runs of the season (16 off 65) after two golden ducks previously.
After failing to force an outright win after calling the shots against Jharkhand and being spun out by Haryana at home, defending champions Saurashtra notched up their first win of the season by beating Vidarbha. The 238-run margin of victory boosted their quotient, placing them fourth in Group A.
Such a victory margin seemed a tough ask when Umesh Yadav picked up four wickets to skittle Saurashtra for 206 in the first innings. Vidarbha fared poorly, being bowled out for 78 to concede a massive first-innings advantage. Cheteshwar Pujara then buckled down to hit 66, one of three half-centurions in the innings. Along the way, he passed 20,000 runs in first-class cricket. A target of 373 proved too much for Vidarbha, who were bowled out for 134.
Allrounder Chirag Jani ended the game with a match haul of 9 for 65, while Jitesh Sharma, fresh off national duty, made scores of 28 and 1 for Vidarbha. The loss notwithstanding, Vidarbha are still second in the pool following two big wins to open the season.
After a frustrating start to the season, where their game against Rajasthan was heavily weather-affected, Vijay Hazare Trophy champions Haryana have now recorded two wins on the bounce. After seeing off Saurashtra last week, they eased past Manipur by an innings and 338 runs to top Group B. Himanshu Rana struck a career-best 250 not out to lead the way.

Tamil Nadu, Puducherry roar

His career was at the crossroads, but N Jagadeesan took the third round by storm, hitting a career-best unbeaten 245 as Tamil Nadu beat Railways in Coimbatore by an innings and 129 runs to storm back into knockouts contention. This was their first win of the season following a massive season-opening loss to Gujarat and a frustrating weather-affected draw against Tripura. R Sai Kishore, the captain, also contributed significantly, hitting a half-century in Tamil Nadu’s 489 while also taking seven wickets in the match.
Puducherry, TN’s southern neighbours, are also in knockouts contention after notching up their second outright win in three games. Their Madhya Pradesh recruit, fast bowler Gaurav Yadav, who took a ten-for in their win against Delhi went one better this time, returning a match haul of 13 for 93 as Uttarakhand were beaten by 55 runs in a tight game in Dehradun.

Baroda currently top Group D with three wins in as many games, Puducherry are in second place, while MP beat Delhi for their first win of the season to be placed third.

Delhi in relegation contention

DDCA continues to be in the headlines for administrative issues, and the team’s performances have mirrored the off-field drama. Delhi’s third-round loss to MP would sting a bit more, considering they pocketed a crucial 34-run first-innings lead, but their batting let them down a second time as they folded for 131 in pursuit of 218. Delhi, who’ve already seen senior players like Nitish Rana, Kulwant Khejroliya and Dhruv Shorey leave for other teams, sit at the bottom of Group D with a solitary point.

Weather continues to have a say

Several top players have voiced their concerns over the Ranji Trophy scheduling. Some have asked for a calendar rejig, while others want the northern sides to play down south first up to avoid chances of weather interruptions. But those debates are perhaps for later, at the captains and coaches conclave BCCI conducts at the end of every season.

For now, UP vs Bihar, Punjab vs Tripura, Chandigarh vs Gujarat, and Bengal vs Chhattisgarh were all weather-affected with not even the first innings honours decided. For UP, this is their third-straight weather-hit game, while Chandigarh and Punjab have also copped it badly, with fog and bad light.

Source website: www.espncricinfo.com

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